Thursday, August 31, 2006

2006 Cheap Seats MFP: National Picture

Now we take a look at the national picture

Issues in 2006

The new rule changes: All the coaches need to quit whining and adjust to the new clock rules. It's for television, and that television contract pays their salary.

The BCS National Championship Game and the move to Fox: I like the fact that the "national championship" game is now a separate entity because it creates 2 more at-large berths for a minor conference team to shoot for.

The problem for the BCS is, they've moved the BCS games from ABC to Fox.

Remember anything on ABC is going to be aggressively promoted by ESPN, which has more pull in the sports world now than at any time in history. When the BCS had problems in the past, they could count on ESPN's stable of experts to spin the problems in a positive light because ABC and ESPN had a financial stake in the BCS.

Now that the BCS is on Fox, they don't have "the Worldwide Leader in Sports" in their corner. Which means that any controversy the BCS has will be aggressively attacked by ESPN now that they don't have to worry about t's financial well being.

And this year, we are almost guaranteed to have BCS controversy because a lot of the top teams are flawed. Most likely there will be no undefeated teams and many one-loss teams.

The cries for a playoff are only going to be louder and louder.


North Champ: Nebraska
South Champ: Texas
Conference champ: Texas over Nebraska

Basically, this conference will come down to Cal, Oregon, and USC. Oregon and Cal will both be good, but USC has used its dominant position over the last 3 years to recruit well. Still, someone's going to beat the Trojans, be it Cal, Oregon, or UCLA.
Conference Champ: USC

The West is pretty straightforward: The LSU-Auburn winner will win the division. The East is where it gets more complex, as every team except Vanderbilt and Kentucky has a shot. Florida has a brutal road stretch, Tennessee's got talent, but Phil Fulmer will still find ways to lose close games, South Carolina still needs to make up a talent gap, and Georgia lost DJ Shockley to the pros. Best guess, Georgia probably wins the East since they survived that 4-way death match last year.
Conference champ: LSU over Georgia

Big 10
Like the SEC East, there are 4 viable contenders for the Big 10 title: Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and Iowa that could make the race a mess. Ohio State, though has the most overall talent of this group, plus they'll get the early boost from winning at Texas.
Conference champ: Ohio State

Big East
Whoever wins the Louisville-West Virginia game will probably win the Big East. I suspect it will be Louisville because they feel like they have something to prove after last year.
Conference champ: Lousiville

FSU, Miami and Virginia Tech all come into the season with question marks, but FSU's schedule is less taxing.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame is probably overrated, but they will finish with at least 9 wins, which should get them in the BCS

BCS Busters
Utah established the pattern for "BCS Busters" in 2004. They went undefeated and got a marquee win out of conference against Texas A&M.

This year, TCU and Utah will be up for the Mountain West, but one will knock the other off, and neither play anyone of note. Boise State could also end up undefeated, if they get by Fresno State, but they don't play anyone of note. And C-USA teams always knock each other off.

So the chances of a non-BCS team sneaking in are slim.

At-large bids
Notre Dame will take up one, that's a given. The rest... I like Auburn to get one of the remaining bids, because they're the second-best team in the toughest conference in the nation. Miami will probably get a bid because they'll win their division in the ACC, and Miami's a big name. Iowa will emerge as the Big 10 runner up, and since the Big 10 is the second best conference, and Ohio State will be in the title game, the Rose Bowl will demand a replacement.

Big 12 Bowl bids

Texas - BCS
Oklahoma - Cotton Bowl
Nebraska - Gator Bowl
Texas A&M - Holiday Bowl
Texas Tech - Alamo Bowl
Iowa State - Sun Bowl
Colorado - Insight Bowl
Kansas State - Independence Bowl

and we've run out of Big 12 bowl eligible teams, so the Texas Bowl (formerly the Houston Bowl) will most likely go to it's backup plan of picking a Big East team.


Orange Bowl
Florida State vs. Louisville

Rose Bowl
USC vs. Iowa

Sugar Bowl
Auburn vs. Miami

Fiesta Bowl
Notre Dame vs. Texas

National Championship Game
Ohio State vs. LSU

National Championship Pick: LSU

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

2006 Cheap Seats MFP: Big XII South


Well, if Tech, A&M, Baylor and Oklahoma State want to upset the Big 12 South's pecking order, this is probably going to be their best shot at it. Texas and Oklahoma both have serious questions at QB, even though both are surrounded by great talent, and both appear very vulnerable. However, Texas and Oklahoma both have great talent on defense and that may make the difference.

The Skinny: Last year, Baylor was one victory short of a bowl game. They went 4-1 in their first 5 games, the one loss was in overtime to Texas A&M at Kyle Field. Then they lost their next 5, including a double overtime loss to OU, back to back shut outs at the hands of Texas Tech and Texas. This year, they lose 7 of 11 starters from the defense, which was adequate at best. Granted, they catch a break in that they face both Kansas teams, but the rest of the schedule is brutal: Non-conference games against TCU and Washington State, and bad road trips at Texas Tech, Texas, and Colorado in conference. They will probably drop a tad from last year.

Easy W's: Northwestern State
Close, but probably a win: Army, Kansas, Kansas State
Close, but probably a loss: at Oklahoma State, Texas A&M
Definite L's: TCU, Washington State*, at Colorado, Oklahoma, at Texas Tech, at Texas
* - at Qwest Field, Seattle

Position Ratings
QB: B- - Shawn Bell has been the starter for the past 3 years, which a lot of programs in the Big 12 can't say this year.
RB: B- - Paul Mosley and Brandon Whittaker combined for 1100 yards last year, and both return.
WR: C - Outside of Dominque Zeigler, there's not a whole lot of depth
TE: D - Their starter is a former QB who switched to the position in the spring
OL: B - This unit gave up fewer sacks last year than they did 2 years ago, and 6 of the 8 starters are back

(Note: Baylor runs a 4-2-5 defense. There's a free safety that plays in the defensive backfield, the other 2 safeties can play either near the line of scrimmage or deep, so we're calling them both rovers for convenience sake.)
DL: D - Less than 2 sacks per game last year.
LB: D - Nick Moore only had 23 tackles and Antonio Jones is a redshirt freshman that wasn't highly recruited
CB: C+ - Both corners are back, C.J. Wilson had 5 picks last year
ROV: D - One rover's a lightly regarded JUCO transfer, the other has only 22 tackles and no TFLs.
FS: D - The two deep is a sophomore and a redshirt freshman

Kicking Game: B - P Daniel Sepulveda is an A+, K Ryan Havens is a C-, when you average the two, you get a B.
Return Game: C+ - Replacing Willie Andrews is tough, but the coverage teams are decent

What the Baylor must do to win:
1. Score more on offense - The offense can help the defense out by putting together drives and keeping the defense off the field
2. Get pressure on the QB - Sacks are at a premium with this group
3. Play loose - They're not expected to do much, so they don't have anything to lose.

Projection: Another year, same old Bad News Bears. 4-8 overall, 2-6 conference

Oklahoma State
The Skinny: Last year, this team was not in synch, but they did manage an upset of Texas Tech, gave Texas all they could handle for a half, and they got 3 not-so-easy victories against a I-AA team and a couple of Sun Belt teams.

Easy W's: Missouri State, FAU, at Kansas
Close, but probably a win: Arkansas St*, Baylor
Close, but probably a loss: at Houston, at Kansas State,
Definite L's: Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, at Texas, at Texas Tech.
* - at Little Rock, Arkansas

Position Ratings
QB: D - Bobby Reid suffered a foot injury midway through, watched Al Pena lead the team to an upset against Texas Tech, and struggled when he returned from injury.
RB: B- - Mike Hamilton had 991 yards as a redshirt freshman last year.
WR: B+ - D'Juan Woods heads a talented group, it just depends on if Bobby Reid can get them the football.
TE: D - Largely a group of blockers. Brandon Pettigrew struggled as a reciever.
OL: C- - Corey Hilliard may be an NFL prospect, but the rest of the line isn't

DL: D - Dead last in the Big 12 in rushing yards and yards/carry given up.
LB: D- - It all hinges on if Air Force transfer MLB Marcus Brown can be a solid tackler. Which is hard to do without decent defensive tackles.
CB: F - The secondary was dead last in the Big 12 in interceptions...
S: D- - ... and near the bottom in passing yards given up

Kicking Game: C+ - Bruce Redden and Jason Ricks are both long, but not necessary accurate.
Return Game: C- - Has the potential to be dangerous, but then again, it depends on how well they block.

What the Cowboys must do to win:
1. It's all on Bobby Reid - He has the players around him, he just needs to produce.
2. More turnovers needed - Last year's turnover margin: -15
3. Play well on defense - They were horrible in several key statistical categories and can only get better.

Projection: It's hard to trust a team who's two deep is filled with sophomores, redshirt freshmen, and freshmen just out of high school. 5-7 overall, 2-6 in conference

Texas Tech
The Skinny: There's reason for optimism in Red Raider Nation. For the first time, the team has a quarterback with next-level talent starting in Graham Harrell, and he has Jarrett Hicks, Joel Filani, and Robert Johnson to throw to. Coupled with Texas and Oklahoma having quarterback issues and graduation losses, and Tech's second place finish last year in the Big 12 South, Red Raider fans may think this is their year

To borrow a phrase from Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend."

Objectively, no one's really sure what to make of the defense, which moves All-Big 12 DE Kenyuta Dawson, who had great speed, but not DE size, to outside linebacker, moves OLB/MLB Fletcher Sessions back to the outside now that MLB Brock Stratton is back from injury, gets Seth Nitchmann back from injury also, and has to replace 3 defensive backs.

Also, they have a much tougher non-conference schedule with roadies to UTEP and TCU. Plus, Mike Leach has a bad habit of dropping conference games he should win, usually on the road, as evidenced by last year's loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater. There's a couple of those road games against Colorado and Iowa State. Throw in the fact that Leach is a combined 2-10 against Oklahoma and Texas, and you're looking at another 8-wins-and a bowl game season this year.

Easy W's: SMU, at TCU, SE Louisiana, Missouri, Baylor
Close, but probably a win: at UTEP, at Texas A&M, at Oklahoma St.
Close, but probably a loss: at Colorado, at Iowa St., Texas
Definite L's: at Oklahoma

(Note: Texas Tech's offense is a bit different than other spread offenses in that it employs 4 recievers. The inside receivers have passing game responsibilities similar to tight ends in a conventional offense in that they have to control the middle of the field and make first downs. So I list them as a separate position.)
Position Ratings
QB: A+ - Harrell is probably the first QB Tech has started which had "VHT" attached to his name. (For those who don't speak preseason mag, that's "very highly touted")
RB: D+ - It remains to be seen whether Shannon Woods can be a dual threat running back, which is what this offense requires. He may lose his job eventually to Kobey Lewis or Baron Batch.
WR: A - Jarrett Hicks and Robert Johnson make a tough matchup for any secondary.
IR: A - Joel Filani is also a homerun hitter who can catch consistently. Danny Amendola will also see playing time, with sophomore recruit Todd Walker and his 4.3 speed rotating in on some plays.
OL: B+ - This unit returns 4 starters and is boosted by BYU transfer Ofa Mohetau.

DL: B - Nitschmann is back, and DE McKinner Dixon will finally get a chance to show his 4.5 speed.
LB: B - Kenyuta Dawson's speed helps this unit out tremendously
CB: B- - Antonio Huffman leads this unit, but the younger players are faster than Tech CBs in previous years.
S: B - Replacing Vince Meeks and Dwayne Slay is no easy task, but Joe Garcia is athletic and Darcel McBath seems to be in that Dwayne Slay mold.

Kicking Game: B- - Alex Reyes is a solid punter, but Alex Trlica still needs to be more consistent.
Return Game: C - Shannon Woods and Danny Amendola will probably handle the return duties again this year.

What the Red Raiders must do to win
1. Find a RB who can be a dual threat - Taurean Henderson was valuable to Texas Tech's offense because he could both run with the ball and catch it out of the backfield. If Wood's isn't that type a threat, they need to go to someone else.
2. Better special teams - Yes, I said it, better special teams from Texas Tech. The field goal kickers and return teams both need to be more productive than they were last year.
3. Get more heat on the opposing QB - I realize that the sack totals from last year were disappointing, and that it was largely due to injury, but the injured players have returned and there's young talent behind the starters who are itching to prove themselves. Tech is out of excuses now.

If they can't find at least 24-30 sacks out of this group (that would be 2-2.5 per game over a 12 game season), defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich needs to be canned.

Projection: 8-4 overall, 4-4 in conference, bowl eligible

Texas A&M
(special thanks to Ryan at Texas A&M and Baseball for keeping the public informed on the Aggie depth chart. Phil Steele, Athlon, and all had different projections.)

The Skinny: Dennis Franchione is on the hotseat at A&M after going 5-6 last year, and probably rightly so since A&M fans actually give a darn about their program. Gone are Reggie McNeal and old defensive coordinator Carl Torbush. In comes Gary Darnell, John Mackovic's former defensive coordinator at Illinois and Texas, who plans on implementing a 4-2-5 system.

I hear the Longhorn fans chortling out there since none were impressed with Darnell's defensive schemes, but given that Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas all run 3 reciever sets, and Texas Tech has 4 wideouts all the time, bringing in a DC who will roll 5 DBs as the base defense is a smart move, especially since they gave up 300 yard games to the likes of Barrick Nealy, Shawn Bell, and Allan Evridge.

Will they crack the top 2? Probably not. But they're not going 5-6 again. Their talent won't let them.

Easy W's: The Citadel, Louisiana-Lafayette, Army*, Louisiana Tech, at Oklahoma St.
Close, but probably a win: at Baylor
Close, but probably a loss: Nebraska, Texas Tech, at Texas
Definite L's: Oklahoma
* - at Alamodome, San Antonio

Position Ratings
QB: B- - While Stephen McGee has the intangibles, he's not exactly as fast as Reggie McNeal, and it's hard to make any judgements about his arm strength because he only has one start and a few backup performances.
RB: A+ - I can't remember an A&M team where running back was a weakness. Courtney Lewis should be all-Big 12 if they feature him.
WR: B - Injuries plagued this unit last year, but the talent is there.
TE: A+ - Certainly, the talent is there in Martellus Bennett. If Franchione knows what's good for him, Bennett will be a feature reciever.
OL: B+ - Maybe needs to be tighter in the pass protection, but this unit does open running lanes effectively

(Note: As stated above Texas A&M is switching to a 4-2-5 defense, A&M is referring to it's 5th DB as a "Whip", I call it a Rover, but it's the same general position.)

DL: B+ - I would bump this group up a letter grade if Will Morrissey was playing, but he's left the team for personal reasons.
LB: B - Justin Warren will be flanked by JUCO transfer Misi Tupe at the moment. It may change.
CB: B+ - Certainly, this unit has speed, but A&M is starting a redshirt freshman and a sophomore. Maybe they will grow into it, maybe they won't.
ROV/SS: B+ - Japhus Brown is the new rover, if he can play a full season. Sophomore Devin Gregg moves to Strong Safety.
FS: B+ - Melvin Bullitt could be all-Big 12

Kicking Game: B - A slight drop off at K now that Todd Pegram is gone, but P Justin Brantly has a leg on him
Return Game: D- - considering the kick returns have been ranked in the triple digits the last 2 years, and the punt return only ranked 60 last year despite having fast returners, one has to wonder about the return team coaching.

What the Aggies must do to win:
1. Get ino the backfield on a regular basis - with only 4 down linemen and 2 linebackers, it's imperative that they get a good rush.
2. Grow up in a hurry, secondary - 3 of the 5 starters are sophomores or younger.
3. Many Happy Returns - As in they need to get better field position on their kick and punt returns

Projection: No one would who knows would look at you funny if you pick this team to win the South, but it just isn't going to happen. 8-4 overall, 6-2 in conference, bowl eligible

The Skinny: Forget about Rhett Bomar. OU returns 9 defensive starters, still has Adrian Peterson, still has talent to replace the departures on offense. They aren't going anywhere

Easy W's: UAB, Washington, Middle Tenn. St., at Missouri, at Baylor, Texas Tech, at Texas A&M
Close, but probably a win: Colorado, Iowa St.
Close, but probably a loss: at Oregon, Texas*
Definite L's: none
* - Cotton Bowl, Dallas Texas

Position Ratings
QB: C+ - Paul Thompson is probably keeping the seat warm for someone else, but there's a lot of talent around him.
RB: A+ - You know, that Adrian Peterson guy's pretty good. Even though he wasn't in Heisman contention, he had 1104 yards in 8 starts last year.
WR: A - In a word, fast.
TE: B - They're young, but can block and recieve
OL: C+ - We'll wait and see if the pass protection is better this year

DL: A - Bookends CJ Ah You and Calvin Thibodeaux will get pressure on the QB
LB: A - Zach Latimer, Rufus Alexander, and DeMarrio Pleasant are probably one of the best linebacking trios in the country.
CB: A - D.J. Wolfe and Reggie Smith are a year older and still fast.
S: B - Position battles make this hard to predict, but all the players in the mix get a B on talent alone.

Kicking Game: B - Sophomore Garrett Hartley takes over the kicking duties
Return Game: F - averaged 18.2 yards per kick return last year and 7.4 yards per punt return (yo!)

What the Sooners must do to win:
1. Play to their talent level - This team is too good to go 8-4 again
2. Develop a passing game - The talent is there, Paul Thompson just needs to find them. Otherwise they will see a lot of 8 man fronts again.
3. Better return game - This has been an issue for Oklahoma 2 years running. Surely they have a returner in all that talent.

Projection: 10-2 overall, 7-1 conference, bowl eligible

The Skinny: Mack Brown finally took a team to a national title. Question is, was it all Vince Young or all Mack Brown. This is the year we find out.

Aside from an early loss to Ohio State, this team should be back in the BCS mix as Big 12 Champions.

Easy W's: North Texas, at Rice, SHSU, Iowa State, at Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma State.
Close, but probably a win: Nebraska (twice), Oklahoma*, Texas A&M, at Texas Tech
Close, but probably a loss: Ohio State
Definite L's: none
* - Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas

Position Ratings
QB: C+ - Colt McCoy is the the starter... for now
RB: A - Jamaal Charles is the type of back that can carry this team.
WR: B - They were better than expected because of Vince, now it's their turn to make the QB look good.
TE: B- - Who will step up to replace David Thomas?
OL: A+ - 3 of the 5 starters return and the other two have the physical tools to start for an elite D-1 program.

DL: A+ - Tim Crowder, Frank Okam, and Brian Robison are NFL-bound
LB: A+ - Rashad Bobino and Robert Killibrew will lead this unit
CB: A - Young, but very talented.
S: A - Michael Griffith is the secondary's anchor

Kicking Game: B - Greg Johnson will handle both placekicking and punting duties. It remains to be seen whether he can be a consistent kicker. He certainly has a strong leg.
Return Game: A - Even with the loss of Raymonce Taylor, this return unit will be solid.

What the Longhorns must do to win:
1. No taking plays off or let ups - Texas is going to get everyone's best shot, and they need to play like it.
2. Be as aggressive as last year in the passing game - Playing conservative will do this team no good. One of the key plays from last year was Vince's long bomb to Limas Sweed at the end of the half
3. Don't get down if they lose to Ohio State - This year, it's possible to even be #1 with one loss, there's going to be time to play your way back in.

Projection: 12-1 overall, 8-0 in conference, and the Big XII Champions

Big XII North Summary
10-3Back on top in the North
Iowa State
Bret Meyer and Todd Blythe lead
4-46-6A year in transition
Kansas State
6-6Need help from WRs
3-9Dark horse? Don't believe it.
1-73-9Crashing back down to reality

Big XII Summary

Big XII South Summary
8-012-1Is Mack Brown good or lucky?
7-110-2Oklahoma's still got talent.
Texas A&M
8-4New D should help.
Texas Tech
8-4Will they play well every game?
Oklahoma State2-63-9Building for next year
Baylor2-63-9Last again

Big XII Summary

Big XII Championship Game: Texas over Nebraska
Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
Defensive Player of the Year: Tim Crowder, Texas
Special Teams Player of the Year: Mason Crosby, Colorado
Coach of the Year: Bill Callahan, Nebraska

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

2006 Cheap Seats MFP: Big XII North

Well, Aside from Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa State (who shocked the heck out of a lot of people last year) the Big XII North was still bad, but very competitive. There was a lot of coaching turnover in the offseason, as Bill Snyder decided to retire and Gary Barnett was finally forced out at Colorado.

No one's really in danger of getting fired this year, but while Nebraska and Iowa State will have competitive teams, no one's ready to proclaim the North Division as the Big XII South's equal. At least not yet.

Here we go, from worst to first:

The Skinny: Kansas has actually gone to 2 bowl games since head coach Mark Mangino arrived. Last year, they went to a 7-5 record buyoed by defense that held Oklahoma to 19 points and Texas Tech to 23 on the offensive end (Tech also got a defensive TD). Both of those teams ended up winning, however, because the offense was horrible. Only twice did they get over 21 points in a Big XII game, and one of those was because Kansas hit an overtime game winning field goal to break the 21 point barrier. This year, Kansas only returns 3 starters from that defense, and the offense figures to be equally bad.

Easy W's: Northwestern State, Louisiana-Monroe
Close, but probably a win: at Kansas State
Close, but probably a loss: at Toledo, South Florida, at Baylor
Definite L's: Colorado, Texas A&M, at Iowa State, Missouri, at Nebraska, at Oklahoma St.

Position Ratings
QB: D+ - The starter should be Kerry Meier, but Kansas played musical QBs all last year with Adam Barmann, so it's hard to tell.
RB: C+ - Kansas has at least settled on a starting running back: Jon Cornish, and 5 yards/carry isn't too bad.
WR: C- - I'm hard pressed to find a reciever here that can be good enough to help Meier or Barmann out.
TE: C- - Derek Fine's a blocker, that's it.
OL: C+ - David Ochoa is the unit's poster boy according to the preseason publications, but the other four must work in concert with him.

DL: B- - All the linemen have the size to stuff the run, but can they rush the passer?
LB: C- - When you lose 278 combined tackles, that's tough to replace
CB: C - Sophomore Aqib Talib got a lot of work last year while Charles Gordon was having to help the offense, but this unit was hardest hit by graduations.
S: C- - JUCO transfers must prove they can perform

Kicking Game: A-
- Scott Webb hit some clutch kicks last year, and at times was the Jayhawks' only offense. Kyle Tucker's one of the best punters and should see plenty of action with all the 3 and outs the offense will put up.
Return Game: D - Kansas needs to find a consistent returner to replace Charles Gordon

What the Jayhawks must do to win:
1. Run the ball - This will be the strongest area of Kansas's offensive game, and they need to rely on it.
2. Get consistency in the passing game - getting teams out of an 8 man front will help this team tremendously. The question is, do they have the talent?
3. Find a QB and stick with it - Kerry Meier or Adam Barmann. Settle on one. Don't keep switching.

Projection: Hard to see their offense being any better than last year. That will sink them down to the bottom of the Big 12. 3-9 overall, 1-7 in conference

The Skinny: Gary Pinkel simply can't be trusted as a coach. Two years ago, they were supposed to contend for the North title, but an early season loss to Troy shattered their confidence, and 5 straight losses in conference cost them a bowl game. Last year, others picked Missouri as a dark horse in a weak Big 12 North, but managed only a mediocre 7-5 record and lost to New Mexico out of conference. Both of those years, Missouri had it's best QB talent ever in Brad Smith.

This year, Missouri is once again a dark horse to contend in the Big 12 North, never mind that Chase Daniels is now the starter in place of the now-graduated Smith.

To quote The Who, "We won't get fooled again."

Sure they have talent around Daniels, but Pinkel can never put that talent into a championship package, and his coaching will probably cost them a lot games that they would otherwise win. Brutal road trips to Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Nebraska won't help things.

Easy W's: Murray St., Ohio, Kansas
Close, but probably a win: none
Close, but probably a loss: Ole Miss, at New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas State
Definite L's: at Iowa State, at Nebraska, at Texas A&M, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma

Position Ratings
QB: C+ - Daniels may have been a top 10 QB recruit, but let's see him perform.
RB: C - Marcus Woods has not been asked to carry the ball 20 times a game over the course of the season, which is what he'll have to do if he's not splitting carries with Tony Temple again this year.
WR: B - Fitting that they play for a team from the "Show Me State", because this recieving corps need to show people that there's a 1,000 yard reciever in the bunch. The talent is there, though
TE: B- - Martin Rucker is the team's leading returning reciever with only 567 yards recieving.
OL: C - Sure, they can run block, but can they protect Daniels?

DL: B+ - Could be one of the best defensive lines, but it's a wait and see process.
LB: C - nice players in Dedrick Harringtion and Marcus Bacon, but not a whole lot of depth
CB: C- - Lost both starters, and nickel and dime corners are very green.
S: C- - David Overstreet led the team in tackles last year. It's great to see that he can tackle, but you don't want your safties to be at the top of the tackling board.

Kicking Game: C - Adam Crossett has the leg, but needs to work on his accuracy
Return Game: F - This unit was averaging 19.6 kickoff yards per return, and they need to improve

What the Tigers must do to win:
1. Receivers have to catch the ball and make plays - Missouri's receivers have speed, but they weren't called upon to get open and help the QB out when Brad Smith could run out of trouble. If it's third and long and the blitz is on, will they give Daniels an open target?
2. Pinkel must get out of the way of his talent - The head coach is prone to folding in big games and dropping games he shouldn't.
3. Improve on defense - The preview magazines say this defense has potential. Prove it.

Projection: Don't believe the hype. 3-9 overall, 1-7 in conference

Kansas State
The Skinny: Yes, Bill Snyder is gone, but his legacy remains in the non-conference schedule he gave new head coach Ron Prince. Prince wasted no time in following Snyder's old formula of loading up on JUCO talent, and Kansas State should have a decent first season under their new head coach

Easy W's: Illinois St., FAU, Oklahoma St.
Close, but probably a win: Marshall, at Colorado, at Missouri
Close, but probably a loss: at Kansas, at Baylor
Definite L's: Louisville, Texas, Iowa St., Nebraska

Position Ratings
QB: C- - Allan Evridge will probably hold down the fort until Josh Freeman is ready.
RB: B+ - Thomas Clayton will be one of the Big XII's best feature backs.
WR: B - all 3 recievers average 14 or more yards per catch
TE: B+ - Rashaad Norwood doesn't get the ball thrown his way much, but he does make plays when he gets it.
OL: C - If this unit gels, it could be top-notch. If it doesn't, look out.

DL: C- - Need to get a better pass rush on the quarterback
LB: A - Brandon Archer will be all-Big 12 and the rest of the linebackers will follow his lead
CB: C - Lacking in experience, but they will be helped by Kansas State mixing in more "Tampa 2" coverages
S: B - They will have the talent to help the corners, but will it be enough?

Kicking Game: D - Jeff Snodgrass has a strong leg, but is only 10 of 16 on field goals. ouch.
Return Game: B - Yamon Figurs could be one of the conference's best returners.

What the Wildcats must do to win:
1. Get a consistent pass rush - The line needs to do better than 1.9 sacks per game.
2. Get turnovers - K-State only had 8 picks last year and a turnover margin of -6
3. Hand the ball to Thomas Clayton - Clayton averaged 4.6 yards/carry last year and K-State needs to feature him more.

Projection: 6-6 overall, 3-5 in conference, bowl eligible.

The Skinny: The past is the past. Former Boise State coach Dan Hawkins brings his high powered offense out of the WAC and into the Big 12. It takes at least a year to transition to a spread offense from a pro style one, but Colorado will be fun to watch this year while they make the transition.

Easy W's: Montana St., Baylor, Kansas
Close, but probably a win: Arizona St., Texas Tech, at Missouri
Close, but probably a loss: Colorado St.*, Iowa St., Kansas St., at Nebraska
Definite L's: at Georgia, at Oklahoma
* - at Invesco Field at Mile High, Denver

Position Ratings
QB: C - Well, James Cox won the starting job by a razor thin margin, but he'll probably thrive in Hawkins' pass-happy system
RB: A - Hugh Charles was a consistent runner and should provide balance immediately
WR: B - Blake Mackey and Dusty Sprague could put up huge numbers.
TE: D - A dropoff from Joel Klopfenstein's performance from last year, but the TE may get phased out of the offense anyway.
OL: A- - Led by Mark Fenton, this unit could be one of the best in the Big 12

DL: C- - Needs to develop a consistent pass rush
LB: B+ - still one of the best overall units in the Big 12
CB: B - The talent is there with the starters, and they're both experienced
S: B+ - J.J. Billingsley is the leader of the secondary

Kicking Game: A+ - Mason Crosby returns for one more year.
Return Game: F - they can't do any worse than 18.2 yards/kickoff return, can they?

What the Buffaloes must do to win:
1. Learn quickly - Hawkins' offense isn't rocket science, but it does take some time to get the hang of it.
2. Don't drop passes - offenses like this depend on high-percentage, catchable passes to set up other passes downfield.
3. Figure out more uses for Hugh Charles - If Hawkins isn't going to give Charles 25 carries a game, he needs to find other ways for him to get the football.

Projection: A lot of flash, and a lot of growing pains. 6-6 overall, 4-4 in conference, bowl eligible

Iowa State
The Skinny: Iowa State has improved every year the last three years. Two years ago, they were bowl eligible and came within a field goal of making the Big XII title game. Last year, they pulled off an upset of Iowa and beat Texas A&M and Colorado on the way to another bowl game. This year, 10 of the 11 offensive starters are back, including all 5 skill positions and quarterback Bret Meyer. The defense, however, is young and must improve in a hurry, but scoring your way to a bowl is not uncommon in this conference.

Easy W's: Toledo, UNLV, Northern Iowa, Kansas, at Kansas St, Missouri
Close, but probably a win: Texas Tech, at Colorado
Close, but probably a loss: at Oklahoma, Nebraska
Definite L's: at Iowa, at Texas

Position Ratings
QB: A+ - Bret Meyer has 2 years experience under his belt and is one of the leading returning passers
RB: C+ - Stevie Hicks was hurt by his offensive line last year
WR: A - Todd Blythe and Austin Flynn have a chemistry with Meyer
TE: B - The tight ends are decent when the ball is thrown their way
OL: B - The offensive line should be better after giving up 39 sacks last year

DL: B - Hey, when you've got a defensive tackle nicknamed "Big Play", don't expect the unit to give up many rushing yards.
LB: B - The talent is there, time will tell if they perform
CB: C+ - DeAndre Jackson is preseason All-Big XII, but it's a question of depth.
S: C- - lots and lots of inexperience all throughout the 2 deep

Kicking Game: C - If Bret Culberson can improve on his 20-26 FG performance, it would help. They are also breaking in a freshman punter.
Return Game: B - Jackson will handle kickoff return duties as well, Ryan Baum will be the primary punt returner

What the Cyclones must do to win:
1. Get better play from the offensive line - Better rushing numbers and lower sack numbers on offense will mean more wins.
2. Get turnovers - last year, Iowa State had a +14 turnover margin. A repeat performance in this category would build the defense's confidence.
3. Cut down on the miscues - While people expect young players to miss coverage assignments and make mistakes, this defense has to be rock solid from day 1.

Projection: Look for Iowa State to continue it's upward momentum. 8-4 overall, 5-3 conference, and bowl eligible.

The Skinny: Big Red Nation hasn't exactly handled the transition to a pro-style offense well. What they refused to see because they hated Callahan so much was that recruits are starting to come to Nebraska again to play football because it's still a name program and now, unlike the last 3 years under Frank Solich, it has an offense that will help get top recruits to the pros.

The time is right for Nebraska to make a comeback.

Easy W's: Louisiana Tech, Nicholls St., Troy
Close, but probably a win: Colorado, at Iowa State, at Texas A&M
Close, but probably a loss: Texas (twice)
Definite L's: at USC

Position Ratings
QB: A-* - Zac Taylor should have a breakout year.
RB: A - Top 10 recruit Marlon Lucky takes over the starting running back position
WR: A - The best WR unit in the North
TE: B - Matt Herian returns from injury to bolster this unit
OL: B- - Struggled last year, but should be better this year.

DL: A+ - The defensive ends both had double-digit tackles for loss.
LB: A - The backups could start at other Big 12 programs. Oh, and the 3 starters are pretty good too.
CB: A - Both CB starters have the size and speed that NFL scouts are looking for...
S: A - do both safety starters.

Kicking Game: A - Jordan Congdon was 2nd Team Big XII last year.
Return Game: A - Look for defensive standouts Tierre Green and Corntey Grixby to have great years.

* - This is not taking into account Sam Keller, who recently transferred from Arizona State. He'll probably have to sit out this year.

What the Huskers must do to win:
1. Better offensive line play - The sack numbers should improve now that this unit had a year to gel.
2. Turnovers are key - While the -2 turnover differential has more to do with the offensive mistakes, the defense does need to get more picks and fumble recoveries
3. Get Lucky - No matter what the offense, you still have to get good play from the running back position, and Marlon Lucky has the ability if he can just get some blocking up front.

Projection: If Nebraska fan is still complaining about Callahan after this year, then there's no help for them. Nebraska will retake the North. 10-3 overall , 7-1 in conference, Big 12 North champions.

All Big-XII First Team


Bret Meyer
Iowa St.


Tim Crowder


Adrian PetersonOklahoma


Frank Okam


Jamaal Charles


DeMarcus Granger


Matt Herian


Adam Carriker


Jarrett HicksTexas Tech


Robert Killibrew


Todd Blythe
Iowa St.


Zach Latimer


Billy Pittman


Corey McKeon


Justin Blalock


Rufus AlexanderOklahoma


Brian Daniels


D.J Wolfe


Mark FentonColorado


Tierre Green


Justin BlalockTexas


Michael Griffin


Corey Hilliard


Tarell Brown


Mason Crosby
Texas A&M


Daniel SepulvedaBaylor


Terrence Wheatley


DeAndre Jackson
Iowa St.
All-Big XII Second Team


Graham Harrell
Texas Tech


C.J. Ah You


Thomas Clayton
Kansas St.


Brent Curvey
Iowa State


Courtney Lewis
Texas A&M


Red Bryant
Texas A&M


Martellus Bennett
Texas A&M


Brian Robison


Joel Filani
Texas Tech
OLBBo Ruud


D'Juan Woods
MLBJustin Warren
Texas A&M


Malcolm Kelly


Jordon Dizon


Chris Messner


Brandon Archer
Kansas St.


Kirk Elder
Texas A&M


Reggie Smith


Lyle Sendlein


Melvin Bullitt
Texas A&M


Manuel RamirezTexas Tech


Jason Carter


Gabe Hall
Texas Tech


Antonio Huffman
Texas Tech


Jordan Congdon


Alex ReyesTexas Tech


Cortney Grixby


Aaron Ross

Next: Big 12 South
Back: TCU, SMU, UTEP, Houston, Rice, North Texas

Monday, August 28, 2006

2006 Cheap Seats MFP: Texas Schools outside the Big 12

Like last year, we start our preview with the Texas schools outside the Big 12, plus a quick take on the Texas I-AA teams that show up on other people's schedules.

This year, we've made a change to the rankings. Rather than rank each unit 1-5 relative to conference, we're just going to give them letter grades based on how good they are overall.

Conference USA
The Skinny: UTEP should be the best team in Conference USA this year. The reason why we emphasize should is because they lost to 3 straight teams that they were superior to on paper: UAB, lowly SMU, and Toledo in the (Car Financing) Bowl. This year, the last three weeks could be equally brutal as they include a 2-timezone road trip to UAB, a 3-timezone road trip to Marshall, and Memphis, which forced 6 turnovers their game against UTEP last year. Still, UTEP has 9 of 11 defensive starters back plus key offensive weapons Jordan Palmer and Johnnie Lee Higgins, and will fight it out with Houston for the best in the West. And they have Mike Price, who doesn't get nearly enough credit for the job he does.

Easy W's: at San Diego State, New Mexico State, SMU, Tulane, at Tulsa, Rice
Close, but probably a win: at Houston, at UAB
Close, but probably a loss: Texas Tech, at Marshall
Definite L's: at New Mexico

Positional Ratings
QB: A- - If you haven't gotten to know Jordan Palmer by now, order a few UTEP games on PPV to get a good look. He's got the tools to play on Sunday next year. He's already UTEP's all time leader in passing yards and passing TDs.
RB: C- - Marcus Thomas was part of a committee last year, now the ball is his full time. Jury's still out as to whether he can handle the load.
WR: B+ - Johnnie Lee Higgins gets a complimentary part in Florida State transfer Lorne Sam
TE: C - if you could put Jake Sears' blocking together with 6-7 Jamar Hunt's receiving, you might have a heck of a tight end
OL: B- - Graduations have hurt this unit, but it's should hold together.

DL: C+ - Alex Obomese is the star of this defensive unit, recording 54 tackles and 6.5 sacks last year, but the rest of the line is a question mark
LB: B+ - This unit returns the defense's top 2 tacklers, Jeremy Jones and Troy Collavo. All 3 starters are seniors
CB: C - Fast, but undersized.
S: B - Returning starters Joe Flesoski and Quintin Demps should provide great help over the top.

Kicking Game: A+ - Reagan Schneider should be a candidate for the Groza Award, except he's in C-USA, Punter Ryan Hotchkiss averaged 38.6 yards/punt.
Return Game: A - Higgins was an all-C-USA returner.

What the Miners need to do to win:
1. Play well late in the season - Teams as good as UTEP should not be dropping games late in the season
2. Limit Turnovers - Turnovers were key to some of UTEP's losses.
3. Protect Palmer - Yes, this means the offensive line has to pass block well, but it also means Marcus Thomas has to provide a solid running compliment.

Projection: 9-3 and bowling

The Skinny: As good as UTEP is, Houston will probably overtake them this year. Every unit improved last year, and they still have Kevin Kolb running the show

Easy W's: at Rice, Tulane, Grambling, Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulsa, at SMU, at Memphis
Close, but probably a win: Oklahoma St., Central Florida
Close, but probably a loss: at Southern Miss
Definite L's: at Miami (FL)

Positional Ratings
QB: A - Kevin Kolb probably will have to work to play on Sunday, but he's a senior and a good college QB.
RB: D+ - Houston is a spread team, but they still need to get better recieving and running production from whomever wins this position battle.
WR: B+ - Vincent Marshall is back and anchors this unit
IR/TE: C- - Inside recievers generally run the same routes as Tight Ends in conventional offenses. This unit needs to get first downs on a consistent basis.
OL: C - Improved a lot last year.

DL: B+ - A switch to the 3-4 made this unit a lot better in '05
LB: A- - The Cougars can roll 4 athletic linebackers, led by Wade Koehl, who has 26 career tackles for loss.
CB: B+ - 3 deep at the corner position again this year, but we'll see i
S: B- - Will depend on if senior FS Will Gulley is healthy or not.

Kicking Game: B - Sophomore K Ben Bell (8-12 FG, longest from 36 yards, 37-39 XP) is a "C", and Senior Punter Justin Laird is an "A", so I took the average.
Return Game: D - This unit is in flux because their leading returners from last year graduated.

What the Cougars need to do to win:
1. Find an RB and use him effectively - Even Steve Spurrier, Mike Leach, and Bobby Petrino have used the RB effectively in a pass-happy offense. Houston will be held back if their starter is a dud.
2. Protect Kolb - Obviously, Kolb is the engine of this offense, and needs to stay upright.
3. Continue to improve - Houston made great strides to go from 3-8 to 6-6, but if they want to get where they are projected, they need to make more strides.

Projection: 10-2 and Conference USA champs.

The Skinny: Surprisingly, SMU managed to finish 1 game below 500 last year, handing TCU it's only loss, and upsetting Houston and UTEP in conference. Still, don't expect the same results this year. SMU is once again searching for a QB after Jerad Romo's departure and the starting unit is dotted with freshmen and sophomores.

Easy W's: Sam Houston State, at Rice
Close, but probably a win: at North Texas, at Tulane
Close, but probably a loss: at Arkansas State, at East Carolina, Tulsa
Definite L's: at Texas Tech, UTEP, Marshall, UAB, Houston.

Positional Ratings
QB: F Redshirt freshman Justin Willis takes over, and there's no decent backups if he gets hurt
RB: C+ - Surprise starter DeMyron Martin had 854 yards last year
WR: F - None of the projected starters really scares anyone
TE: D+ - Again, Ryan Kennedy is the best of a bad bunch
OL: F - Will allow too many sacks.

DL: D+ - While Adrian Haywood was a star JUCO transfer, the rest of the players need to provide a consistent pass rush
LB: D- - Too small and inexperienced.
CB: D - Way too little experience
S: C- - Senior Joe Sturdivant must provide a safety net for his inexperienced CBs

Kicking Game: INC - position battles make this hard to grade
Return Game: C+ - the returners are decent, but can they get blocking?

What the Mustangs need to do to win:
1. Pass effectively - In order to get teams out of an 8 man front and help Martin, SMU's passing game must get better in a hurry
2. Grow up in a hurry - The defense and starting QB need to limit the mistakes of inexperience
3. Win close ballgames - of the 6 losses last year, only the Texas A&M game and Tulane games were blowouts.

Projection: 4-8

The Skinny: It's always a sad day when another old-school triple option attack goes by the wayside, but pro offenses attract recruits, and Rice, even though it doesn't offer scholarships, becomes the latest to switch to a more pro-style system. New coach Todd Graham brought in former Texas QB Major Applewhite to revamp the offense, though they may be going through some growing pains this year.

Easy W's: none
Close, but probably a win: at Army
Close, but probably a loss: at Tulane
Definite L's: Houston, at UCLA, Texas, at Florida State, UAB, at Central Florida

Positional Ratings
QB: F - Chase Clement is the only real passing QB on the roster, but he's backed up by freshmen.
RB: D- - A lot of the depth moved to other positions
TE: F - No talent, no experience in a pro system
WR: F - See above
OL: F - Will have to learn to pass block

(Note: Rice runs a 3-3-5 Stack, with 2 CBs, 2 Rovers, and a Free Safety)
DL: D - Experienced, but too slow.
LB: F - Too little talent
CB: F - See above
ROV: F - See above
FS: F - See above

Kicking Game: F - Kicker's leg not strong enough for I-A ball
Return Game: F - Well, when you don't have athletes or depth, kick returning becomes an adventure.

What the Owls need to do to win:
1. Play full out every game - Hey, you never know, you might win one you didn't expect to win if you play hard for 60 minutes.
2. Grow up in a hurry - Rice is very inexperienced at key positions
3. Defense and field position - The only way this team can win: Keep it close and win the field position battle.

Projection: 1-11

Mountain West
The Skinny: Last year, TCU was one SMU loss away from being the Mountain West's second straight BCS buster. They opened with a huge win against Oklahoma and rolled through the Mountain West.

Easy W's: Baylor, UC Davis, BYU, at Army, at UNLV, San Diego State, Air Force
Close, but probably a win: at Utah, at New Mexico, at Colorado State
Close, but probably a loss: none
Definite L's: Texas Tech

Positional Ratings
QB: C+ - Jeff Ballard starts after backing up Tye Gun the last 2 years. But then TCU's quarterback traditionally has to be a game manager and leader rather than a gunslinger.
RB: A+ - One of the few teams in College Football as Robert Merrill and Lonta Hobbs have both put up 1,000 yard seasons in the past, and Sophomore Aaron Brown had 163 yards in his only start.
WR: B - 3 of the top 5 WRs are back, including 2 starters
TE: B - Both of the tight ends are back
OL: B- - Solid starting 5 led by RT Herbert Taylor, though a tad undersized.

(Note: TCU runs a 4-2-5 Defense with 2 CBs, 2 Rovers, and a FS)
DL: A- - Bookend DEs return, and DTs are surprisingly big
LB: A - Robert Henson and Jason Phillips had solid years as freshmen, and should be better as sophomores.
ROV: A - Talented and versatile. Sometimes they're in coverage, sometimes they're near the line of scrimmage, and they excel in both roles
CB: B- - Former LSU recruit Vernon Russell helps solidify this unit.
FS: C+ - Elvis Gallegos provides senior leadership.

Kicking Game: A - Chris Manfredi was perfect on 13 kicks last year, and
Return Game: C+ - They are auditioning all new returners, but the blocking was solid last year.

What the Horned Frogs need to do to win:
1. Balance the offense - Yes, TCU relies on ball control, which eats up "3-3-5 Stack" defenses, but non-MWC teams will stack the line.
2. Pass Rush is key - TCU will once again need to rush the passer to help the corners.
3. Don't expect to sneak up on anyone - The rest of the MWC has had all offseason to make adjustments to TCU's offense and defense.

Projection: 11-1, Mountain West Champion

Sun Belt
North Texas
The Skinny: North Texas used to dominate this league, then they completely fell off the wagon last year, finishing 2-9 as teams like "Ooh-La-Laf" (UL-Lafayette), Florida International, Arkansas State, and Middle Tennessee St. all improved dramatically. North Texas may be in the mix, but clinching the league's one bowl berth is a longshot at best.

Easy W's: La. Tech.
Close, but probably a win: Middle Tennessee St., FIU, at Troy, at FAU
Close, but probably a loss: at SMU, at Arkansas St., at Louisiana Monroe
Definite L's: Texas, at Tulsa, at Akron. at Louisiana-Lafayette

Positional Ratings
QB: C- - Joey Byerly has the physical tools, but not the experience.
RB: A - Lest we forget, Jamario Thomas was the NCAA's leading rusher his freshman year
WR: D+ - Johnny Quinn is this team's most consistent receiver, but there's no telling what to expect from the other recievers
TE: C - Good blockers, not a factor in the passing game
OL: C - Good enough line for the Sun Belt, but will wilt against tougher competition

(Note: North Texas employs a "Bandit", a hybrid DE/LB that usually rushes the passer. Think Jevon Kearse's role with the Eagles. Because of it's function, I lump them in with the DLs)
DL: D- - This unit needs to get more heat on the passer
LB: C- - Good enough for the Sun Belt
CB: F - A serious weakness on this team...
S: F - are the safeties

Kicking game: F - Replacing the kicker specialists. In the Sun Belt, good kickers are hard to find.
Return game: C- - Johnny Quinn will handle the return duties.

What the Mean Green need to do to win:
1. Rush the passer - ... or the secondary will get torched
2. Throw the ball better - Good teams will stack the line against Jamario Thomas, and UNT needs to get them out of it with good passes
3. Block well on running plays - blocking is crucial given the run-oriented defenses UNT will face.

Projection: 5-7.

Next: Big 12 North
Back: Overview

In Other News....

Cowboys fine TO for missing rehab sessions: I've said before that one of the things separating Terrell Owens from certain other wayward recievers is that he's a hard worker. Problem is, if "the player" is injured and is late for rehab sessions, this is pushing him towards Randy Moss territory in the sense that many people are revising their opinions of his work ethic.

I keep hoping Terrell Owens realizes that he's never going to win a PR battle with Bill Parcells, but he just can't get out of his own way.

Tiger Woods wins the Bridgestone Invitational: For those who don't know, the Bridgestone Invitational is one of the World Golf Championships (along with the Match Play Championship), and the only way to get an invitation is by winning a full-field PGA or European tournament. So basically, within a week of winning his 12th major, Tiger Woods won against a pretty decent field despite his 71 in the third round. The way he won against this elite field, however, has renewed the questions about if he's that great or his competitors can't hack it.

Look, it's Tiger freaking Woods! It's not that the field is that bad, it's just that Tiger has that combination of mental toughness, focus, and killer instinct that Michael Jordan and others who completely dominated their sport had. The rest of the field is fine.

The only real issue golf has is that it's no longer a big deal to drive the ball offline. Course fairways are too wide nowdays, and if you do manage to miss these huge targets, the rough is way to short and pro golfers are hitting out of it too easily. If every tournament would just take a page from the U.S. Open by letting the rough grow and narrowing the fairways, we might actually see decent scores.

Naturally, tournament directors and course superindendents don't want to change it because they have to baby the top players to get them to come to their tournaments.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

2006 Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview

Even though the Astros and Rangers are both within striking distance of their playoffs, neither team is really a viable candidate for postseason. Besides, it's baseball, where the steroid controversy may have gone away, but that's because they've all switched to Performance Enhancing Drug Version 2.0.

So once again, we're saying screw baseball and hello football.

Since we're cutting this close to the beginning of both seasons this year, we're going to have to squeeze more into some posts this year, which means fewer fancy tables than last year.

Here's the schedule:

Monday, August 28: TCU, UTEP, SMU, Rice, North Texas
Tuesday, August 29: Big 12 North + All Big 12 Team
Wednesday, August 30: Big 12 South + Big 12 Bowl teams
Thursday, August 31: National College Football: Issues, Other Conference Picks, Bowl Picks
Friday, September 1: first Weekend Preview of the season
Sunday, September 3: AFC North, East, West
Monday, September 4: first Weekend Wrap-up of the season
Tuesday, September 5: Houston Texans and the AFC South
Wednesday, September 6: NFC North, South, West
Thursday, September 7: Dallas Cowboys and the NFC East + Playoffs and Super Bowl

Disclaimer: All picks guaranteed to lose money at your bookie.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Preseason Blogpoll

My first blogpoll ballot of the new season. Turns out I wasn't kicked out after all.

Don't ask me to explain. All the major programs suck this year, and this is shaping up to be a battle of who will suck the least. Seriously, 2 losses could make you a national champ in '06. This year's teams are that bad.

1 Ohio State
2 Louisiana State
3 Auburn
4 Florida State
5 Southern Cal
6 Iowa
7 Texas
8 Notre Dame
9 Georgia
10 Miami (Florida)
11 Florida
12 Louisville
13 Oklahoma
14 Alabama
15 South Carolina
16 Tennessee
17 Virginia Tech
18 Michigan
19 West Virginia
20 Oregon
21 TCU
22 Nebraska
23 Cal
24 Boise State
25 Utah

Anyway, Here's how everyone else voted

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tour de T.O.

I figured this "Terrell Owens in Dallas" thing would end very badly, I just didn't know it would start unravelling this soon.

Yes, he finally made it back onto the field today, but not before enduring mountains of public criticism for separating himself from the rest of the team.

(Yes, Allen Iverson, we are talking about practice. It's a little more important in football because you have to coordinate the actions of 45 people instead of 10 like in basketball.)

However, one has to wonder if the issue here is really separating himself from the team. It's probably has to do more with why T.O. separated himself from the team and why he did it for so long.

Remember, T.O. came back from a broken leg to participate in Super Bowl XXXIX. That he's now missed 14 practices with a simple hamstring injury can be taken in two lights, both of which harm Owens's reputation.

The most serious is the view that Owens, because he was able to play on a busted stick in a Super Bowl, should be able to practice through a hamstring. This diminishes the one quality Terrell Owens had that actually endeared him to some: That unlike Randy Moss, who was a no-show during practices and occasionally games, T.O. was a hard worker. Plus, being a "jake" is the worst thing an athlete can be accused of, worse than a murderer, worse even than doping. And then there's the reaction of his teammates, many of whom may be required to play on a bad hammy at some point this year, and are looking at T.O.'s bike routine and extended time off and wondering if he's getting special treatment. If he hadn't got back on the field when he did, I'm sure Roy Williams and the rest of the defense wouldn't hesitate to give him another broken leg when he did get back.

The second thing this injury does is give credence to all the conspiracy theorists who maintain that his comeback in the Super Bowl was just a publicity stunt, never mind that he looked like his old self the whole game and turned in a decent performance.

Somehow it's fitting that he was wearing a Team Discovery cycling jersey. If Terrell Owens had been a track star or cyclist, and those sports weren't under constant negative press because of doping, Terrell Owens might be an unqualified sports legend because he has the drive to succeed and the mentality to be a great individual sport athlete.

Heck, had he picked up a set of golf clubs, Tiger Woods might actually have a rival.

Unfortunately, his sport requires that he have the trust of 10 other individuals playing with him in order for him to succeed.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Pre-season Signposts

Cowboys 13, Seattle 3
Positive Signs:
- Tony Romo played the whole game and turned in a decent performance, numbers-wise. (I doubt he'll eventually start, but I think he has a future in this league as a Frank Reich-type backup)

- New rush linebacker Greg Ellis made some open field tackles.

- Shaun Alexander averaged 2.2 yards per carry.

Negative Signs:
- Neither T.O. nor Drew Bledsoe played

- Romo fumbled 2 snaps.

- Patrick Crayton suffered an ankle sprain, a lingering injury.

- Seattle's first team was missing 3 starters, including Michael Boulware, which puts an asterisk on Romo's numbers.

Houston 24, Kansas City 14
Positive Signs:
- David Carr wasn't sacked, and actually got the offense moving on a drive.

- Wali Lundy did well (59 yards on 9 carries, 6.5 ypc)with the first team in place of Domanick Davis.

- Eric Moulds showed he's still got some game left.

- By the time the starters were pulled for good, Houston was up 7-0.

Negative Signs:
- Kansas City's defense is still bad, making hard to project if the offensive numbers will carry forward.

- The mileage is starting to show on Antowain Smith. Time to replace that tire.

- Mario Williams did not look good against a washed-up tackle. (Still, it's his first game ever).

Tomorrow: The booth, the whole booth, and nothing but the booth.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

At least the cycling folks caught Floyd Landis.

I'm really sick of Floyd Landis's excuses at this point.

First it's Jack Daniels, then it's unusually high natural testosterone, then it's cortisone shots. He made some other excuse on Jay Leno, I didn't really pay attention, and it really doesn't matter anymore.

Still, you have to give cycling credit for one thing. They at least have their testing down in a way Major League Baseball doesn't. Yes, you probably would never hear about something like this in baseball, but that's because they don't test for testosterone (just steroids), and even if they did, Don Fehr would try to sweep it under the rug.

But, cycling has it's act together. Their testing adheres to a strict code, use strict laboratory procedures, test for a wide range of performance enhancers and masking agents, and if they find something, they test it again.

Furthermore, on your first positive test, you're gone for two years. Do it again, and you're gone permanently. Oh, and those titles you won while on the stuff? Gone.

Which is much better how baseball handles performance enhancers: Deny the problem for decades, get the entertainment value out of it when people break records, then act shocked and appalled when people come out saying your game is dirty, then appoint a bogus commission to look into the problem. Oh, and pass a token steroid test to appease your detractors and bust a few minor leaguers that no one's heard of.

The cycling folks may have problems, but they at least caught Floyd Landis. Baseball still lets Barry Bonds play.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Some people call him Maurice, because he speaks of the pompetus of gun.

We have found the weapons of mass destruction. They're in the back of Maurice Clarett's car.

(OK, I'm probably not the first blogger to make that joke, but hey, if there's 4 loaded pistols and a rifle in the back of anyone's car, you have to wonder what else they couldn't find.)

In all seriousness, all that happened to Maurice Clarett was that he got pulled over making an illegal U-Turn with said pistols and rifle very close to where a key witness in his armed robbery case lived. Clarett was uncooperative, from all reports to the point of threatening. Police tried to taser him, but the prods bounced off his bullet-proof vest. So they pepper sprayed him.

The scary part about this situation his what *could* have happened had he not made the U-Turn and made it to the witness's house.

Maurice may have had the potential to be a pro football player, but I don't think he's much of a professional killer. Bullets, unfortunately, can be traced to the gun that fired them. Traces of clothing, fingerprints, and DNA can be matched in such a way to prove his presence. In short, we live in a "CSI" influenced era where it's very difficult to get away with murder.

Maurice should be thankful he only has mace face right now. He very easily could have been OJ, only with a conviction.

There's a temptation in our opinionated talk-radio culture to hold him up as an example of what's wrong with "the pampered athlete." Problem is, with any group of people in a given profession, there are misfits, and even if Clarett is put away, young athletes will continue to make bad decisions with the talent God gave them.

There's also a temptation to blame background, upbringing, etc., which is just as much of a leap to a conclusion as making him an example. All individuals have the capacity to overcome their limitations. Clarett simply chose poorly.

And then there's the wondering of "what could have been" if he had won his lawsuit against the NFL. Maybe, the thinking goes, with more financial security, he might not have committed the armed robbery.

Trouble is coming into money often times reveals character as much as the lack of it. If he had won his suit, maybe he gets a big payday and makes himself a nice life, but the big payday also could have just delayed, even fueled his inevitable fall.

Point being, we don't know "what could have been" and we'll never know.

And that's what makes this story compelling.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Bomar out at Oklahoma

Frances McDormand in Fargo"And for what? For a little bit of money." (Working Title Pictures via

There's a scene in Fargo towards the end where Marge (Frances McDormand) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) are in the cop car driving back to Brainerd, where Marge gives Gaear (the silent one) "the speech."

So that was Mrs. Lundegaarde in there, I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper, and those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than money, you know. Don't you know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day.
Rhett Bomar could use some talking to right now.

He basically threw away his college career, any chance at a future professional career, and a chance at a national title

And for what? For a little bit of money.

Specifically, the extra money he and teammate J.D. Quinn earned at a no-show job at Big Red Sports/Imports, a Norman-area car dealer.

(No-show job? Tony Soprano is an OU booster?)

Now, this will probably engender the age-old debate on whether or not collegiate athletes should be given more than their scholarship, but until they change the rules, you can't take money. Every one knows that, boosters, athletic directors, coaches, and players.

OU will probably take a huge hit for this, especially given the penalties handed down at the end of Kelvin Sampson's tenure.

Bob Stoops will probably take a hit by association, even though he's been very forthcoming with information.

The national championship picture has taken a hit as an already murky national picture just got murkier.

But this will basically ruin Rhett Bomar's career.

So there he is. Out of a scholarship and out of a future. And it's a beautiful day...

More commentary
Every Day Should Be Saturday
My Opinion on Sports
Gaylord Memorial Gathering


OK, they say it's bad form to apologize for your mistakes in the blogosphere, but I feel I need to.

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a month and a half on Cheap Seats and longer on my MVN blogs. I was laid off at Xbox 360 and the job search took priority over blogging. I'm waiting to hear from another job soon, hopefully this job will allow me time to research and blog like I want to.

I'm sorry I'm behind on the "renovations." In particular, I'm having a hard time with finding someone who can redo my Cheap Seats template to my liking, as my knowledge of the web coding Blogger uses is lacking. If anyone out there can help, it would be much appreciated.

I'm sorry that I couldn't elaborate on certain stories, such as Zinedine Zidane's headbutt, and Ozzie Guillen's bad taste comments, other than what was already said by others.

I'm sorry to Evan Brunell, Dave Isaacs, Will Parchman and everyone else at Most Valuable Network for not posting as often on my blogs over there as I should have.

I'm sorry to Brian at MGoBlog, who expects everyone in the Blogpoll to post on a regular basis, and I realize I've probably lost my vote as a result and may never get it back.

I'm sorry to all the excellent college football blogs in the Blogpoll that are pulling their weight.

I'm sorry to all Astros and Rangers fans who probably expect more coverage out of a Cheap Seats blog that purports to cover Texas sports, and hasn't delivered in 2 years because of his personal feelings towards Major League Baseball.

I'm sorry to all Dallas Stars fans, who have embraced a sport that's not their own, or even "American" for that matter, continue to pack the AAC for hockey, created a boom in youth hockey in Dallas, and remain loyal despite the abuse they've taken over the years from Canadians, Michigan residents, Minnesota residents, and New England residents (all of whom chide Stars fans for not being "true hockey fans" simply because of the typical Stars fan's geographic location in relation to the North Pole). You deserve more from me on Cheap Seats, especially since no one in the hockey media elite seems to care what goes on with the Stars.

I'm sorry to all Spurs fans, who should have expected something on Spur of the Moment the moment Rasho Nesterovic was traded and the moment when the Nazr Mohammed signing was announced.

I'm sorry to all Mavericks and Rockets fans who read Cheap Seats, who probably feel like they get slighted on there because I do a Spurs blog.

I'm sorry to all my fellow Red Raiders for basically skimping on basketball and baseball coverage on Double T Ranch once football season ended, and not discussing recruits or spring practice. I'm sorry to them also, that I posted nothing once it was learned that Marsha Sharp, who brought the school it's only national title, stepped down.

Most importantly, I'm sorry to all of you who checked in with this blog on a regular basis. Apparently, something I was writing connected with you, and you chose to surf back in for more. And I haven't delivered.